While a lot of games now can be bought via online platforms like Steam, meaning they don’t take up any physical space in your room, in the past, games were stored on CDs. Before that, they were stored on floppy disks (the “save” icon on Microsoft Word is modelled after it). Many of those games were played on a computer operating system called MS-DOS, which stands for “Microsoft Disk Operating System”. The mid-80s and early 90s saw an explosion of MS-DOS games that helped move gaming from the arcade to the home. There are plenty of modern games, like Stardew Valley and Minecraft, that throw back to a time when graphics were simpler and gameplay was arguably better. Here are 13 of the best MS-DOS games that can still be played online today – no floppy disk drive needed.
The Oregon Trail (1971)
This game taught young people about what life was like as a 19th century settler in America. In the game, you take on the role of a wagon leader guiding settlers from the US state of Missouri to Oregon over the Oregon Trail in 1848. Along the way, you have to hunt for food, fight off diseases, and try to reach the end before you become too old.
SimCity 2000 (1993)
The Sims franchise owes its existence to the popularity of SimCity, which came out in 1989. The aim was to build a city and take care of the people. It’s sequel, SimCity 2000, was much like the first, only with extra buildings, infrastructure, and disaster options.
Caesar 3 (1998)
The object of this game, Caesar, and Caesar 2 is to build a city from scratch in ancient Rome. You have to build temples and hold festivals to please the Roman deities if you want to keep your citizens plague-free and well fed.
Prince of Persia (1989)
This is thought to be the first-ever platformer game with a cinematic storyline. In it, players control an unnamed character who must make his way through a set of dungeons to defeat the Grand Vizier Jaffar and rescue a captured princess.
This game, which involved killing zombies and demons on Mars, helped define the first-person shooter genre. The backstory was given out in bits and pieces in the instruction manual and in between each “episode” or level. Doom was the first game with a multiplayer deathmatch option – where you fight with other players instead of demons and zombies.
Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991)
Forget the single city governance of the Caesar and SimCity series; Civ is all about creating your own empire, all the way from 4,000BC to the Space Age. Each decision you make, from which technology your people will develop to how they react to invasions, will affect how advanced your society becomes.
In this game, you take on the role of a character known as Ranger who is sent to a portal to stop an enemy code-named “Quake”. Quake is well-known for having been the game that inspired people to create machinima films – made from video game footage and featuring a storyline.
Tomb Raider (1996)
The legendary Lara Croft helped make 3D action adventure games what they are now, and it all began here: when the archaeologist went off in search of three mysterious artefacts. Even today, the franchise continues to churn out games, movies, and merchandise, and its popularity shows no sign of waning.
The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
The main character of this point-and-click game is a young person named Guybrush Threepwood, who wants to become a pirate on the island of Mêlée. This game is well-known for having been one of the first to use dialogue trees, where a conversation ends depending on the responses you give. Players of games like the Fallout series will be familiar with this sort of gameplay.
There’s no real purpose to this game, unless the purpose is to smash into as many other characters as possible to score points – much like Blood Bowl.
Theme Hospital (1997)
Waiting rooms in real hospitals are terrible places to be hanging around in, but somehow playing a game set in a hospital can be highly addictive. In the game, you must build and operate a hospital, and treat patients, some of whom have super-strange illnesses, like a disease where the patient’s head becomes bloated and then blows up.
Theme Park (1994)
This game helped inspire massively popular games like Rollercoaster Tycoon, where you build a theme park and try to make money from it. While Theme Park is not as addictive as Theme Hospital, and not as meme-able as Rollercoaster Tycoon (Mr Bones’ Wild Ride, anyone?), this is still a super fun game.
Settlers of Catan (1995)
The original board game was so popular, it was made into a video game. Several, in fact. Play as a settler looking to make it big on the island of Catan, and compete with other players for precious resources like sheep, bricks, ore, wheat, and wood.